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Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan, P.C.

Deadly Surgical Error: Nicked Bowel during Hysterectomy

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Each year, approximately 600,000 women in the United States, including those in Virginia, undergo a hysterectomy. This means that one-third of all women in this country will have had a hysterectomy before they reach the age of 60. Ninety percent of these surgeries are performed for non-cancerous conditions, such as fibroids or abnormal uterine bleeding.  Our Virginia personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers have handled many medical malpractice cases involving hysterectomies gone wrong.

Typically, surgeons will perform a hysterectomy either by a laparotomy (large abdominal incision) or laparoscopically (small "keyhole" incisions, often made in the navel and the abdomen).

Since a laparotomy hysterectomy is considered major surgery, the recovery time takes approximately six weeks. A laparoscopic hysterectomy is considered less invasive and the recovery time for this procedure is typically only two weeks. However, because a surgeon’s view is severely limited by the small laparoscope he or she is using to see where incisions and work need to be done, there appears to be a much greater risk that a dangerous medical error can happen, such as a cut, perforated, or nicked bowel, during the hysterectomy procedure.

There are many medical surgeries where a surgeon needs to take great care in avoiding nicking or cutting the patient’s bowel or colon, however, hysterectomies can be particularly dangerous because portions of the bowel/intestine are close to the uterine area the surgeon is working on.

The symptoms of a cut or nicked bowel from a hysterectomy include intense abdominal pain, chills, fever, dehydration, nausea, and distended abdomen. Unfortunately, far too often, medical personnel dismiss these symptoms as anything other than “normal” post-operative conditions and send the patient home, thus resulting in a delayed diagnosis. This delayed diagnosis of a cut or nicked bowel can be deadly.

If left untreated, contents of the bowel leak out into the patient’s abdomen area, leading to sepsis. Sepsis, abdominal cavity infection, can cause damage to multiple organ systems. This can lead to organ failure and death. Untreated sepsis can also lead to septic shock, which causes a person’s blood pressure to dramatically drop. This too can cause death. 

For women who have suffered an undiagnosed cut or nicked bowel during a hysterectomy and are fortunate enough to survive the medical mistake, the recovery period is often long and painful. Our Virginia medical malpractice attorneys have successfully represented many clients who have suffered from this type of medical injury or even resulting wrongful death.

One of our clients suffered through days of severe, painful symptoms before doctors finally diagnosed several abscesses, as well as a perforation in her colon which had allowed septic poisons to be dumped throughout her body. Surgeons had to perform a diverting colostomy on our client and she spent the next 40 days in the hospital, undergoing five more surgeries. Eight months later, she had to endure another surgery to reverse the colostomy, and during that entire time she had to change out her bowel contents from the colostomy bag.  The nightmare our client suffered through left her with over $200,000.00 in medical expenses and $34,000.00 in lost wages, as well as countless months of pain and suffering.

If you have been a victim of a cut or nicked bowel during a hysterectomy, or other similar surgical mistake, contact our skilled Virginia malpractice law firm to allow us to evaluate what legal recourse you may have against the surgeon and/or hospital for your pain and loss. We also offer a free surgical errors resource guide which explains the five most common surgical errors.
Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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